First of all: they added this to the opening of “The Couple Next Door” in early 1959:

The Award goes to . . .


Second: if you’re on Facebook you should go wish Peg Lynch Happy Birthday. Because you will not have another chance today, or any other day, to send warm wishes to one of the greatest American humorists of the 20th century on her 97th season. Go.


I’ll tell you what it is and what it is, is, cold. But it’s a dry cold! Ha ha.

The Holiday smear begins this week, doesn’t it? ThanksBlurMasEve'sDay is the whole season, start to finish/ Already we lean towards Thanksgiving, intent on the bird, thinking that’s a thing in itself. Which it is. I love Thanksgiving. I think. Let me remember . . . no, I do. There’s always the feeling that I’m not doing enough and my wife is doing too much. No one is ever dissatisfied by the basics. Put down a moist turkey, stuffing, rolls with butter, yams, that gelatinous cranberry stuff that shimmies out of the can and says SCHLOP when it’s out, and pies for dessert: who could possibly complain? The stuffing was nice, but last year you had something with minced lark thyroid and anise, didn’t you? And the yams, I seem to remember, had a topping you seared at the table with a small flamethrower. The candles were made of artisanal beeswax, too. Well, can’t top yourself every year.

So I leave them to it - wife and her sister - and putter, cleaning this and that, making the table, getting out the heavy water pitcher specially designed to dump ice in the glass before anything else, getting out the candles and glasses and all the other things that have been stored away for a year. Since yesterday. No, a year. Well, both: the years are short but the days are long, as the wise saying goes.

I do know that when I get out the chair and sit in the warm sun outside for the first time, it doesn’t feel like “gosh, didn’t I just do this?” Even though it’s a shorter period. The holidays are different, because they don’t change. Everything else has, somewhat, but there’s still the bird and the pie and the red wine and the long goodbyes in the cold entryway, everyone laden with leftovers.

How was Friday? you ask. We hear the last one was a disaster. Thank you for asking. It was perfect in every way, right down to the deep-dish pizza and the surprisingly engrossing movie (below) and the amount of work done overhauling the Gallery of Regrettable Food for its 16th or 17th year, I can’t quite tell. I put the finishing touches on the 2014 Bleat template. I listened to two old radio shows. I finished the fourth season of Fringe. I had ice cream.

Watched “World’s End,” which was fun and witty right up until it got ridiculous - which happens sooner than it should. You just have to ride with it. Simon Pegg is so good you keep watching, but I could have done without the thing that the whole movie is about. Not a good sign. Also watched “Executive Action,” a 1973 JFK assassination conspiracy thriller, and thought how Robert Ryan and Burt Lancaster should have felt ashamed of themselves. Yes, shadowy power-figures and jocular oilmen killed Kennedy to advance a plot that would reduce the world’s population to 500 million and also deal with the Puerto Ricans. Twaddle.

(I tweeted a few plot details, and someone replied with a question - growing up in Canada in the 70s, watching American TV, there seemed to be a lot of talk about the Puerto Ricans. Why? Hangover from West Side Story-era concern about immigration and crime, if I recall. New York was going to be swamped with Puerto Ricans! Then that all went away.)


On Saturday daughter made cookies. I lavishly praised her culinary skills - you're such a good baker, honey! and she rolled her eyes, because all you had to do was take them out of hte box and put them on a sheet. They used to come in rolls, I think, but the act of cutting them up yielded either errors or blood or both, so they went to the idiot-proof version.

The appearance of these cookies - local lad the Doughboy is on the box, with the usual smile born of sugary glee - was always the first sign of the imminence of the ThanksBlurMasEve'sDay. Making them together or helping her make them was one of the earliest traditions I can recall, although it was soon replaced by Cookie-Making Parties with friends where the things were piled with the most alarming piles of frosting and sprinkles you can imagine. It's a good lesson: you think that setting your own frosting tolerance parameters will end well, but the result is disgusting and makes you realize the uselessness of sprinkles and the evil of "Chocolate" sprinkles in particular.

If you're wondering whether she arranged the cookies just so and Instagrammed them: of course. "It's been five weeks since my last Instagram," she said, and expected her to make the sign of the cross.

Cold temps did not discourage him: he had to have his walk.

Passed the house. Kept on going.



Before there was the Paul Newman version, there was this perfect little mid-40s fantasy of Victorian England:

I always look for the Noir influences in non-Noir pix, and always steel myself for comments on imdb insisting that this is a Lost Noir Classic.Shots like this - a priest leading a condemned man to this gallows - certainly have that Noir Flavor. (Which tastes like ashes and lipstick, but that's another post.)

It is not noir; it hews to a particular genre, the English mystery with a few whuts-all-this-then-cops tipping hats to their betters, who may or may not be fiends. Fog is required. So much fog.

What makes "The Verdict" different is the velvety ink-soaked darkness of almost every scene. Here are our protagonists, standing over an exhumation.

Is there any better guarantee of a fine interval of movie-watching? Greenstreet and Lorre. And Peter's just how we really like him - cynical, cheerful, dissolute, full of casual useless brio.


Greenstreet is haunted by a case he got wrong, a man he sent to the gallows by mistake. It appears in dreams that did not require special effects, just creative camera placement:

A requisite of all these movies: the chippy. The dangerous music-hall girl who threatens to upend the life of a well-bred man by telling everyone everything. In this case, it's Joan Lorring.

She has nothing of the classic perfect Hollywood sexpot beauty, but when she takes the stage she just . . . pops.

I don't think they wore this in 1890

Not in a good club patronized by decent women.

Another staple: the spinster who reads lurid magazines. In this case, it's "Sensational Weekly."

This being the 40s, even though it's the 90s, there has to be barking roscoes in a shadowy staircase:

But such moments of brightness are swallowed by the rest of the movie, which is either a bad print or a gorgeous study in minimalism:

Star Trek connection? Yes:

It's a somber, haunted thing - and possibly the best pairing between Lorre and Greenstreet. They're equals; they're friends. Until this moment.

Dark theater, dark screen, two enormous floating silver faces, the audience leaning in to hear what combination these two will produce this time.

I don't think they saw it coming.




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